Bellingen Shire Council moves Australia Day 2019 awards ceremony

All smiles: 2018 Australia Day Ambassador David Bitton with Young Citizen winner Katelyn Beaumont from Dorrigo High School and Mayor Dominic King
All smiles: 2018 Australia Day Ambassador David Bitton with Young Citizen winner Katelyn Beaumont from Dorrigo High School and Mayor Dominic King

After Bellingen Shire Council voted to move the 2019 Australia Day Awards Ceremony to Friday January 25, the evening before the traditional date, the Courier-Sun asked general manager Liz Jeremy if council planned to have any kind of event on Australia Day, and in particular, when the citizenship ceremony would be held.

She replied: “Citizenship Ceremonies can be held by local government on Australia Day,  as outlined by the Australia Day website and Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code, however this is dependent upon various considerations including whether there are any requests received.”

The stated reason for holding the awards on Friday is to increase the number of people attending, given that this year Australia Day is part of a long weekend.

“It is hoped that by changing the date that the event will attract greater attendance, allowing the community to enjoy the long weekend and support other events throughout the shire,” the business paper for last week’s council meeting said.

The question of whether the event will be permanently relocated to a date other than January 26 is one that will depend on “the success of the 2019 ceremony” and “a thorough consultation process to understand community sentiment around the date of the Australia Day Awards Ceremony”.

In their discussion, councillors said the awards ceremony deserved a bigger audience and this was the motivation for moving it.

Cr Jennie Fenton said when she first started attending a few years ago, she loved the community vibe.

“It’s a chance to celebrate great things happening and those who work tirelessly who often don’t get put on a stage and clapped,” she said.

“This motion isn’t anything political, it’s come out of frustration that the ceremony often happens in front of a small crowd.”

Cr King said he had his own personal view about Australia Day celebrations but that was not why the timing of the awards ceremony was being changed.

“It tends to be only those getting awards and their families who attend. Some of those making the most noise about Australia Day don’t even come,” he said.

Cr Fenton said the  most important part of the motion was the bit about community consultation, in order to find out why people weren’t showing up and how to fix it.

“To argue for something that you love but not engage with it is disingenuous,” she said.